The effect of Anders Behring Breivik’s actions is not just being felt by the families of the 77 victims who lost their lives in the twin terror attacks of July 22, 2011.
Each one of us who is following the trial, making it a part of our daily conversations, or even sparing a thought for it, is perhaps experiencing a churning of thoughts, ideas and emotions. This experience brings along the realization that 22/7 will never be ‘just another day’.
“Every year on 22 July, we are going to have a commemorative ceremony. However, there is bound to be disagreement as to the content of that ceremony. What will it mean when we say - Never again 22 July to each other?” Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology (University of Oslo), tells The Foreigner.
“Perhaps it will mean never again dangerous dreams of purity, or never again hate ideologies directed at immigrants, but this is by no means certain.”
Mr Eriksen points out that the question of what Norway thinks of immigrants does not have a ‘single’ answer, meanwhile.
So how is this and the Breivik case viewed by the outsider? Radka Hromadova, who traveled to Norway eight months ago from the US, has been keenly following the Breivik trial. She says that from the principle of democracy, it is important that the proceedings of case be made public. Along the way, she is also trying to understand what lies beneath the angst that Breivik represents.
“The world is multi-cultural and we have to accept that people are moving between continents for jobs, family and education.” She feels that the discomfort towards foreigners coming to Norway began emerging much earlier and adds, “It’s just that they are not aware of it. Foreigners see it more because they confront it every day.”
Kasia Chmielewska from Poland comments, “Most of us are well-meaning people and it is unfortunate that because of a handful of people who create trouble, there is a generalized perception about immigrants.”
She feels that the Breivik case is exceptional particularly for a country like Norway, which has seen only peace for decades and thus it should get the attention that it is garnering.
“This way, Norwegians can begin to ask questions about such a form of extremism, try to understand its root cause and also prevent such incidents in the future,” she says.
Ashley Batalden, who is from the US and married to a Norwegian, feels that the ‘Breivik effect’ is only just an exaggeration. “A majority of the Norwegians do not agree with him and see his views as very extremist and contradictory to the values of the Norwegian society,” she observes.
At the same time, Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen says discontent to the immigration policies of the day exists.
“Many express their support for Breivik's views, if not his actions, and so far, the hatred of Muslims and multiculturalists does not seem to have been weakened in the population at large.”
As per its latest figures, Statistics Norway (SSB) pegs the number of immigrants at 12.2 per cent of Norway’s population from over 215 different countries.
“I nevertheless believe that in the long term, provided Breivik is not - at the end of the day - declared an isolated madman, the Norwegian will fully have understood that living in the 21st century means living with complexity, diversity, hybridism and difference. That ought to be a lesson learnt, given the extent of the horrors and the ideology justifying them.”
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